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U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)
News Transcript

Presenter: U.S. Army, Deputy Commander, Joint Task Force Unified Response Maj. Gen. Daniel Allyn January 19, 2010

DOD News Briefing with Maj. Gen. Allyn from Haiti

COLONEL DAVID LAPAN (U.S. Marine Corps): Again our briefer this morning is Army Major General Daniel B. Allyn, spelled A-L-L-Y-N. General Allyn currently is the deputy commander of Joint Task Force Unified Response. And previous to assuming this position down in Haiti, General Allyn was the deputy commanding general for the XVIII Airborne Corps and Fort Bragg.

General, over to you for any opening comments you'd like to make.

GEN. ALLYN: Well, thanks a lot.

And good morning, ladies and gentleman. And thanks for the opportunity to join you today and update you on efforts under way, by the international community, here in Haiti. I know you join me in extending our condolences to the Haitian people. Our hearts and our prayers continue to be with Haiti's citizens during this tragic time. All of us here in Haiti and across the globe partnered in this recovery effort share an uncommon passion and commitment to do all we can, to help the government of Haiti and the Haitian people recover from this tragedy.

We are employing all of our resources as fast as we can. And we continue to make progress here every day. We do not underestimate the scope of the challenge in front of us. We are here at the request of the government of Haiti. And we are working in partnership with the United Nations and the international community.

We enjoy incredible teamwork and support with and for all contributing parties and the people of Haiti. As I stated, we are making progress daily and building our capacity to deliver more each day, to those most in need.

Key developments today and on the immediate horizon: The 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit from Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, has arrived and will move about 800 Marines ashore beginning today to support communities west of Port-au-Prince that gravely need assistance. The 2nd Brigade Combat Team of the 82nd Airborne Division -- nearly 1,000 strong -- continue to flow into country to support relief efforts in the vicinity of Port-au-Prince. The hospital ship the United States Naval Ship Comfort will arrive offshore tomorrow morning, increasing medical support available to the people of Haiti.

In addition, yesterday afternoon, United States Air Force C-17 aircraft flew nonstop from Pope Air Force Base, North Carolina, and delivered nearly 15,000 meals and over 15,000 liters of water to citizens in northeast Port-au-Prince. This aerial delivery augments our ongoing relief efforts and continues to extend our reach to the stricken.

We currently have over 2,000 boots on the ground and over 5,000 afloat, and we anticipate we will have an aggregate strength of over 10,000 within the coming weeks, with about 50 percent of those forces directly involved in delivering humanitarian assistance ashore.

As of this morning, in support of humanitarian assistance efforts, we have delivered over 400,000 bottles of water and 300,000 rations to the people of Haiti in the past six days. Within the next several days, we'll have more than a dozen water-purification units producing water for humanitarian assistance needs across Haiti. Our ships supporting the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit are producing 40,000 gallons of water per day for distribution in support of humanitarian assistance efforts.

Within days, we'll approach a self-sustaining water production capacity.

Additionally, in South Central Haiti we delivered approximately 4,000 pounds of food and water by air to the stricken community of Jacmel. Joint Task Force Haiti provided helicopter support to USAID and the World Food Program to complete this critical distribution.

The security situation here in Haiti remains relatively calm. Distribution points remain orderly throughout our humanitarian assistance efforts, and feedback from the people of Haiti has been positive. The U.N. security forces continue to address the emerging security requirements with great agility and responsiveness. General Peixoto is aggressively employing his forces to maintain the secure environment that enables us to continue our primary focus on humanitarian assistance distribution.

Medical relief capacity continues to grow with the arrival of several international field hospitals and surgical teams. Currently, portable hospitals from five nations are supporting our efforts on the ground in the Port-au-Prince area. Our medical capability will continue to expand with the arrival of the hospital ship Comfort.

Overall, we are making steady progress. We have a lot more work ahead of us, with an international and an interagency team that gets stronger every day.

Thanks for the opportunity to provide opening update, and I welcome your questions.

Q General, it's Anne Flaherty with Associated Press. Could you explain to us why it took almost a week to organize the C-17 airdrop that you mentioned that took place yesterday? And do you have any more airdrops that are planned? Why didn't they do this sooner?

GEN. ALLYN: Obviously, the aerial delivery of supplies is a capability that has been part of our arsenal from the outset. The fact is that it takes forces on the ground to secure the areas where these drops must go in and to organize the people to avoid a chaotic distribution when those supplies come in. And we needed to wait until we had adequate forces to enable that to happen. And with that capacity building every day, we will continue to use this and every other means available to us to increase the reach of our efforts to the people of Haiti. Q General, it's Tom Bowman with NPR.

People who are familiar with logistics say to me that, since you have a single runway at Port-au-Prince airport, it would make sense to create an unimproved runway. And they say you could do that with heavy equipment: create a dirt strip, and you could start moving in more C-130s, because they can land on just about anything. Is there any thought being given to creating that unimproved runway in Haiti?

GEN. ALLYN: There are several existing runways that are being assessed, and those that are immediately capable are being integrated into the air-flow plan. And we will begin to use two alternate aerial ports of entry within the next 24 to 48 hours, to relieve some of the pressure on Port-au-Prince.

And as you know, that you've been following this situation, the team of Air Force units and supporting units have been doing herculean work, extraordinary work, at Port-au-Prince. We have increased to over 200 sorties a day, from a capacity that on an average day, pre- earthquake, was 13 commercial aircraft into Port-au-Prince airport; so an extraordinary amount of work. It will remain critical to us at the Port-au-Prince airfield. And we are getting a lot of great help from a lot of supporters, to enable us to continue to increase the throughput coming into Haiti as well as our ability to distribute it to the areas most in need outside the nerve centers.

Q Thought is being given to a second unimproved runway at Port-au-Prince, right? And then, can you say where these other airfields are?

GEN. ALLYN: The first runway in Haiti proper will go into operation in the vicinity of Jacmel within the next 24 hours. I mentioned the rotary-wing insertion that went into there yesterday, delivering food and supplies, that enabled us to also do the airfield assessment that's critical.

And we will begin to use that airfield for C-130 deliveries, primarily initially supporting the buildup of the Canadian humanitarian assistance efforts that will be centered there in Jacmel and also integrating the aid necessary to the international community to continue to deliver food and emergency supplies to the people in the southern provinces of Haiti.

The other aerial port of entry that is being brought into service to enable overland delivery of supplies to Haiti is San Isidro in the Dominican Republic. And so we are obviously very conscious of the need to have multiple ports of entry. We are also close to initial operating capability in the port of Port-au-Prince, in Southport (sp), and doing assessments of the other ports to rapidly support joint logistics brought from afloat to ashore.

Q General, it's Justin Fishel from Fox News. I have two quick questions. We're told there's no plans to do another C-17 drop today. That was successful yesterday. Why not do it again today? And is there still an active search for American survivors? Where do you believe they are, and how many do you believe are still out there?

GEN. ALLYN: The first question: In terms of the C-17 drop, obviously the commander's assessment of the needs on the ground and where his forces need to be are a component of determining where subsequent deliveries will happen. With the surge in delivery of elements of the 82nd Airborne Division overnight, we were surging resources to move them to their distribution points. And our intent is, within the next 24 hours, to conduct future aerial delivery of supplies to those priority locations identified by the government of Haiti and the international relief effort.

Q (Off mike) -- on the Americans?

GEN. ALLYN: Yes. The USAID is obviously heading up the search and rescue effort. We fully expect that we will transition very soon from the search phase to the recovery phase, and obviously we continue to be in prayer. But at a week after the initiation of the earthquake, we have not found any survivors in the last two days. So we are doubtful that we will be fortunate, but obviously we remain in prayer and hopeful.


Q General, this is Dave Martin with CBS. You said the 2nd Brigade Combat Team is in Haiti 1,000 strong. The original timeline had the entire brigade being in Haiti by this weekend. So what is holding up the deployment of the full brigade? And if you can airdrop supplies, why can't you airdrop the troops themselves?

GEN. ALLYN: Yeah, that's a great question. And obviously the delivery of capability here in Haiti is a -- is a balancing act that requires troops on the ground to distribute humanitarian assistance, the supplies for them to distribute, and the mobility necessary for them to be able to reach the communities that are most stricken. And quite frankly, the earthquake did not take into account the location of drop zones when it achieved the effects that it did, and if we were to airdrop the 82nd, we then have other challenges inherent in that, and our focus becomes distribution of them from their dispersed locations to where they need to help. And suffice to say that in the ground commanders' view, we are using the best method possible to get the most forces on the ground as quickly as possible.

The insertion of the Marine expeditionary unit demonstrates one of those examples, where they will reach areas we've been unable to get to yet.

And we expect the last load of 2nd Brigade Combat Team to land here within the next 36 hours. And the adjustment in that airflow was in order to get higher priority capability on the ground, so that when those troopers arrived, they would be fully capable of disbursing the critical supplies that are needed.

So our capability is building daily. And we are making significant progress.

Q Sir, Gordon Lubold from the Christian Science Monitor. Just how do you characterize the mission of those forces on the ground? It's humanitarian assistance. But you've said, you know, it's generally orderly now.

Where are your concerns about where that could potentially break down and where that humanitarian assistance mission might have to change?

GEN. ALLYN: Obviously as in any military operation, security is inherent. And it's the foundation of your ability, to do anything, but particularly when you're trying to reach people that are stricken by this earthquake.

The United Nations as you know have the lead for security here in Haiti. They have been here for over five years. They have been doing extraordinary work in restoring stability and security to the people of Haiti and to the government of Haiti.

And they are working very, very agilely and responsibly to meet those needs, as they emerge. In addition, it's obviously necessary for the security forces of the government of Haiti, the Haitian national police, to increase their capacity.

The day after the earthquake, there were only 500 Haitian national police available to address the needs based on the destruction and the tragedy that hit.

As of last night, there were 2,000 Haitian national police on the job courageously working, within their communities, to ensure a secure and stable environment for the ongoing recovery efforts. Obviously, we are watching for signs of instability. At present, there are pockets in areas of Haiti, and the U.N. security forces are working with the Haitian National Police to address those pockets as they arise. And they have been able to effectively deal with them, and we're confident they will continue to do so.

Q What are the ingredients that create those pockets of instability? What is it exactly that you see that makes that occur?

GEN. ALLYN: Well, obviously, you know, we have people that need food, need water, need life-sustaining support. And in some cases, the instability that occurs is generated by that challenge.

Some of the activity is criminal in nature. You're quite aware that the prisons here were destroyed by the earthquake and those prisoners are now in the populace. And obviously, we are working with the government of Haiti to ensure that we retain order and that we don't allow security to degrade and affect our ability to get emergency relief to the people of Haiti.

Q Yeah, General, Peter Spiegel with The Wall Street Journal. Two quick questions, both sort of follow-ups: First, you mentioned, in your opening comments, that the Marines were scheduled to go onshore today. We heard some reports they actually had set up a beachhead this morning. Can you talk about whether that flow of force has actually begun already?

And secondly, to follow up on Justin's question about when to transition from search and rescue to recovery and rebuilding, you mentioned no Americans in the last two days, but we keep getting reports of Haitians being pulled out. Again, it's a USAID thing -- I know it's not your -- really your lane -- but can you just inform us on any discussion you're having about when that transition happens?

You know, obviously, as you said, we're a week in now. The hopes start declining every day. There are risks of bodies -- and diseases if they're lasted for -- and if they're there for a long time. When does that transition begin, particularly regarding search and rescue for Haitians?

Thank you.

GEN. ALLYN: Yeah, in response to your first question, yes, the insertion of Marine forces ashore began this morning. And based on their coordination with Sri Lankan United Nations forces in that area, they will expand their support to ongoing relief efforts. And we expect within 24 to 48 hours the 800 Marines that are available to go ashore will be fully supporting the relief efforts in the western portions of the stricken zone west of Port-au-Prince.

Your second question -- frankly, I cannot speak for the USAID. This is their mission, to lead the search-and-recovery effort, and so I am not going to put words into their response -- their area of responsibility; just as they would not speak for General Keane on how we're employing the military forces here. So I would ask you to direct your question to the USAID.

COL. LAPAN: (Off mike) -- Nancy.

Q Sir, this is Nancy Youssef, with McClatchy Newspapers.

You said in your opening statement that you anticipate there'll be 10,000 troops in the next several weeks. How long have you determined that the United States military can stay?

GEN. ALLYN: Well, as I also stated, we're here at the invitation of the government of Haiti. And as President Obama has made very clear, we are here to give all support we can to the government of Haiti for as long as they say that we can assist them in recovering from this tragedy.

Q How long have you told your supervisors, for example, that the United States military can stay, given the challenges that you face there logistically, and also given the demands for equipment in other areas of SOUTHCOM?

GEN. ALLYN: Yeah, obviously, that's a -- that's a question that I'm sure you can get a better answer for there in the Pentagon. But we have the ability to sustain our forces.

We are leveraging all the capabilities of our joint military and supporting forces. And we will be able to sustain the effort here in Haiti as long as it is needed.

And we are reassured by our senior leaders that all available resources that are needed by General Keen and by the government of Haiti will be made available and brought to bear as rapidly as possible. And so we are inspired by the speed with which the capabilities have been brought in here and the speed with which they've been able to adjust priorities to the changing situation on the ground.

And so we are a very capable Department of Defense, obviously, and we're confident that the capabilities that are needed by the government of Haiti will be provided and can be provided and sustained for as long as it's needed.

Q General, it's Mike Mount with CNN. (Inaudible.) Understanding you said that, you know, the Comfort arrives tomorrow and there are a number of field hospitals from other countries on the ground there, reports from various news organizations, including ours, on the ground there are showing a lot of Haitians desperately still needing medical attention on the ground within sometimes minutes, hours, according to some of the reports.

Is there an effort to kind of loosen that logjam on medical supplies or additional doctors or medical facilities to get in on the ground as opposed to flying people out as well, but increasing the medical capability, surgeons and other doctors, on the ground in a wider part of Haiti and Port-au-Prince?

GEN. ALLYN: Yes, absolutely. It's a great question. And that effort is ongoing.

As in all areas of our efforts here, our medical capacity has grown each and every day that we're here, as has our understanding of where the response is needed most. And obviously we are adjusting the delivery of subsequent medical capability that enters the theater to address emerging requirements that are not immediately being met.

There's obviously a -- an interagency effort, led up by the World Health Organization, that is moving rapidly to increase the distribution of essential medical aid. And we're confident that, as we work together in understanding where the needs are most, that we will be able to push them in that direction very, very quickly.

Q Follow-up real quick? There's also a good resource within the U.S. military of field hospitals. We understand that there may be some talk about moving those out. Is that in the works, moving any Air Force or Navy field hospitals into the area?

GEN. ALLYN: I spoke mostly about the international contributors in my remarks, but we also have a military medical capability that has closed here in support of the effort. And we are constantly assessing the need to ensure that the capability on the ground is sufficient to meet the daily needs of the response effort to this tragedy.

And if we need more capability than what is currently arriving -- and literally, we have capability arriving every day; for instance, shortly after the Comfort arrives here ashore, we will -- or offshore, we will also have the Colombians providing a hospital ship to the effort in support of our efforts here. And so we're -- we are obviously in a -- in a(n) hourly and daily assessment of needs versus capability.

And if we need it from the Department of Defense, we will request it. And I'm confident it will be delivered as quickly as possible.

Q Hi, General. This is Courtney Kube from NBC News.

There have been some reports. You mentioned that security is relatively stable. But there's been some reports of problems at some of the refugee camps, where some of the locals are all massing together, some sexual assaults and what-not.

Is there any talk of U.S. military helping out just with policing of those areas, keeping the locals safe?

GEN. ALLYN: We are working with the U.N. security forces. We have several meetings a day, with General Peixoto and his staff, at the tactical through joint task force level. We met with him last night at 2100 hours to discuss the situation on the ground and our respective capabilities.

And in the incidents that occurred yesterday, two in particular in the vicinity of Port-au-Prince, his responsiveness to those incidents was not only timely but also extremely effective. And he has demonstrated that capability time and again in responding to the international relief effort here.

As I stated earlier, there's a concurrent effort to assist the Haitian national police in restoring their capability. And that will be an effort led by I'm sure the INL and supported by the U.N. civilian police effort here that was already in place and is being reinforced.

And so we believe that the emerging incidents of instability are within the current capability. And our commanders on the ground are adjusting their force posture, to move them where they are needed most, to ensure that we don't get an unstable environment that affects our ability to accomplish the mission.

Q But just to be clear, does that mean the MINUSTAH or the Haitian police? Who's -- who is policing the areas where all these civilians, all these homeless Haitians are now living? Who's in charge of securing those people?

GEN. ALLYN: Yeah, the coherent security force on the ground today across the country is MINUSTAH. And so they are the ones dealing with the majority of the occasions of large gatherings of people. Where incidents occur within local communities in areas around Port-au-Prince and in the outlying areas that -- the Haitian national police are responding to those, and becoming more and more capable in dealing with those.


Q General, this is Joe Tabet, with Al Hurra.

Do you see any possibility to change the rules of engagement, in order to secure the airfield in Port-au-Prince?

GEN. ALLYN: Suffice to say that the commander obviously reviews the rules of engagement every day in response to the environmental conditions and as they change. And our rules of engagement remain on target for the missions that we have to execute. And our commanders on the ground have the necessary authorities to conduct their operations.

Q General, it's Al Pessin, from Voice of America.

We hear some of these numbers, like 40 thousand liters of water, 40 thousand humanitarian rations. In a way, they're big numbers but, compared to the need, they don't sometimes sound so big. What's your assessment of the capability, even as it grows, compared to the need, especially for food and water, by hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people?

And secondly, I heard just before I came in here about some U.S. troops landing on the grounds of the presidential palace. Can you tell us what that's all about, please?

GEN. ALLYN: In answer to your first question, obviously, a part of our daily staff work with all the participants in this effort is to fully understand both the changes in the demand on the ground and the capacity that is building here in Haiti. In the example of the delivery of water, for example, our objective is to restore water production and distribution to levels that were here before the earthquake. We are already seeing the Haitian system stand up. Local delivery trucks are operating in Port- au-Prince delivering water to the cisterns in many of the communities. And there are fuel delivery trucks also delivering fuel to many of the gas stations in the Port-au-Prince and outlying areas. This is a very, very encouraging sign.

As the -- as our assessment determines that we have a gap between the demand on the ground and our ability to deliver, obviously we then adjust the priority on delivery of supplies coming into the theater to ensure that what is needed can be met by the commanders on the ground and the people of Haiti.

Q And the other question, about report of U.S. troops parachuting or otherwise landing in the presidential palace grounds?

GEN. ALLYN: We have not had any airborne operations of personnel here in Haiti. We have none planned at present. The only insertion of our troops is in support of the distribution of water and humanitarian assistance.

I think most of you know there is a distribution point at the displaced personnel gathering there on the grounds of the presidential palace, and so that report is probably linked to resupplies of that distribution point.

Q A quick clarification, General. Jeff with Stars and Stripes. You said USAID was in charge of search-and-recovery efforts. Does that mean it is now officially a recovery mission?

GEN. ALLYN: No. That's a -- that's the -- the phases of the effort involve search and then recovery. I combined the two because they are linked in terms of a continuum.

And so I am not telling you that the search effort is over. That is USAID's responsibility to direct when that shift occurs.

Q Of the competing priorities right now -- water, food, medical attention, security -- what is your top priority?

GEN. ALLYN: Obviously our top priority is to continue to increase our distribution capacity of the supplies that are building on the ground, both those delivered by the Department of Defense and those contributions from the international and interagency community.

We are increasingly capable of doing that, and based on that, the number-one priority today is our ability to increase the tactical mobility, the ground vehicles necessary to diburse (sic) -- disperse those supplies. It's still important for the next two to three days, at least, to continue to increase the delivery of water until we have a self-sustaining production capability on the ground. And our third priority at present is to be able to continue to bring the enabler capabilities that will enable the full opening of the port and the construction equipment necessary to begin the reconstruction, the rubble removal efforts here on the ground.

Q Hi, sir. It's Tony Capaccio with Bloomberg News. Two quick questions. What capability does the Comfort give you in terms of an increased hospital and medical capability over what you have now on the ground? And then I have a second -- a follow-up clarification.

GEN. ALLYN: Hey, I'm not sure I caught the second half of what you said. The bottom line is, the U.S. Naval Ship Comfort is a 250- bed capacity, fully manned with the medical professionals, to increase by 250 patients the current capacity here on the ground in Haiti. And by midday tomorrow, we expect to be able to transfer high-priority patients identified by the minister of Health and the medical professionals on the ground here in Haiti to ensure that those most in need of trauma care and advanced medical procedures will be able to receive those on the Comfort.

Q For clarification, on the 10,000 U.S. personnel question, that number keeps getting thrown around. Is it 10,000 troops or 10,000 combined Army, Marine Corps and naval personnel on the vessels?

GEN. ALLYN: Yes, the current capability that has been requested in our assessment of what is needed on the ground is 10,000 total military personnel.

Q Is that with Navy, though, on the -- on the vessels?

GEN. ALLYN: I'm sorry. I did not hear that --

Q That includes naval personnel on vessels, versus all ground troops. Is that correct?

GEN. ALLYN: That includes all Department of Defense personnel supporting operations here in the joint operating area of Haiti.

Q General, this is Luis Martinez of ABC News. If I could go back to the creation of water, the water supply, the self-sustaining water supply that you talked about earlier, there's great interest in these giant bladders that are being produced, I guess, by the machine -- the desalination machines. Is that happening on the ground, or is that happening offshore? And how are they being delivered? And how do -- how are we ensuring that people are actually getting that water? And how long do you envision this self-sustaining water supply for?

GEN. ALLYN: Yes, and yes. It is being produced afloat and loaded into blivets that can then be slung load to the areas that it's needed. The -- there -- it is being produced in multiple areas around Haiti and distributed by a multitude of means. In some cases, it is being produced in close proximity of existing distribution points and is being pumped directly into those areas. It is being distributed by vehicle on -- in both bladders and pumping capability.

So we all have means of our systems' being put into operation to increase the capacity of water production on the ground.

And our current estimate -- and once again, this is based on a -- an evolving assessment of the demand and where we're reaching the people most stricken by it -- is that, within the next probably four to five days, we will approach that self-sustaining threshold.

Q And a follow up, just quick. The bladders are being filled where? Those are being produced on the Vinson and then being slung load into country? Or are those being filled on land?

GEN. ALLYN: I'm not sure I got the entire question. But the bladders are being filled at multiple areas on the ground in the vicinity of the water-purification units, and they are being filled on ships at sea with water-purification units and then slung load in by helicopter ashore.

Q Hi. This is Olivia Hampton with AFP. I just wanted to know if you could talk a little bit about the implementation of the agreement with the U.N. to prioritize the delivery of humanitarian supplies and talk a little bit about the initial -- at the airport -- and talk a little about the initial complaints that the U.S. was prioritizing getting Americans out and U.S. humanitarian supplies in.

GEN. ALLYN: Yeah, I -- I didn't catch your first question, but I'll answer your second question. Obviously, we are supporting the evacuation of American citizens each and every day, as we have been directed to do. That number is ranging from 800 to 1,000 a day, and thus far the daily arrival at the embassy for evacuation has been evacuated each day on departing aircraft that have brought forces and equipment into Port-au-Prince.

There is a concurrent effort ongoing by the international community to evacuate other citizens.

And those efforts are being prioritized by the international community and in coordination with the government of Haiti. And I am confident they will continue to exert all resources to ensure we can meet the needs of every -- of every citizen of the international community here in Haiti.

I apologize, but I'm at a point where I need to move to a different location for a subsequent commitment. So I'm going to provide just a brief closing comment.

First and foremost, I thank you for the opportunity to talk to you today and to give you an update of the current situation on the ground in Haiti and the extraordinary effort under way by the international community, supported by the entire Department of Defense and the United Nations, in support of the government of Haiti and the people of Haiti.

In the days to come, our forces and capabilities to distribute water, rations, emergency supplies and other relief items will increase. And we are joined with an incredibly dedicated team of teams committed to helping Haiti and the people of Haiti to be lifted out of this extraordinary tragedy.

Thanks for the opportunity to talk to you. And I look forward to future updates.

COL. LAPAN: Well, and thank you for your time, sir.

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